Here's a review of the material we looked at concerning slavery as it was practiced in the Old and New Testament times:
- Slavery existed among both pagans and Jews in the Old Testament, as well as in the Roman Empire and among Christians in the New Testament period.
- The main difference between pagans and believers in those times was that slaves among pagans were seen as property, but among believers were protected to a certain extent by religious law and Christian principles, and were included in the practice of the faith.
- We shouldn't compare the practice of slavery in New Testament times (mostly domestics and laborers) to the slavery of 18th-19th century America (a strong factor of the economy).
- Jesus and the Apostles commented on slavery but did not condemn it nor rebel against it because as a system it was passing away and there was nothing to replace it in the society of that time. The message of the gospel was primarily given to reconcile mankind to God through Christ, not to champion social causes. It eventually had a beneficial effect on society that led to the elimination of slavery, but this was a benefit of the gospel, not its initial purpose.
As Christianity grew and spread, its positive impact could be seen in the fading away of slavery, the elimination of polygamy and a greater respect for the poor, women, children, the weak, elderly and the sick.
The yeast of the Christian faith has been seen in positive social change over the decades. Moral evil of every kind is eventually reduced or eliminated because it is not compatible with the Christian faith and lifestyle. For example, I started to smoke cigarettes when I was 12 and continued until I was 30. I tried to quit many times, heard every argument against it but only when I became a Christian did I finally quit successfully because smoking was not compatible with my faith, my Christian goals and the Spirit of God within me.
Let us now go back over the relevant verses in chapter 6 and see what Paul actually says about slavery.
Instruction to Christian Slaves
1All who are under the yoke as slaves are to regard their own masters as worthy of all honor so that the name of God and our doctrine will not be spoken against. 2Those who have believers as their masters must not be disrespectful to them because they are brethren, but must serve them all the more, because those who partake of the benefit are believers and beloved. Teach and preach these principles.
- I Timothy 6:1-2
He says two things to Christians at Ephesus who are slaves:
- Honor or respect their pagan masters as a witness of their faith. Slaves could not preach or teach their masters, so the way that they behaved and demonstrated their respect towards their masters would serve as their witness (or condemnation) of their faith.
- Do not take advantage of the fact that your master was a fellow believer (to disrespect or give less service because he was your equal in Christ). As Christians in different positions, both master and slave were interested in doing good to one another: the slave was to render good service and the master was to be fair and generous to his slave. Both people shared in the benefits that came from being Christians (the slave was able to give good service with a clear conscience and the master was free to provide fair treatment in a spirit of generosity without hesitation to his slave).
These principles about the master/slave relationship needed to be the basis for teaching on this subject in all churches where Timothy taught or where this subject was taught.
General Instructions — 6:3-21
In this last section, Paul will give general instructions for those who minister in the church, and specific instructions to Timothy himself for his ministry.
1. Warning to Those who Cause Division
3If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, 4he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, 5and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.
- I Timothy 6:3-5
Paul returns to one of his original points in chapter 1 concerning false teachers who cause trouble in the church. It seems that some were profiting financially from their false teaching and Paul suggests that this may be the true motive behind their efforts. He describes their method of operation:
- They oppose the teaching established by Jesus and the Apostles and promoted by Timothy concerning the way to godliness (being like God, Christ, righteous, etc.).
- They substitute the teachings of Christ with debates over words, obscure doctrines, controversial issues which give rise to arguments, division, evil thoughts and suspicion about others.
Paul also reveals the true nature and goal of these troublemakers:
- They pose as teachers but know nothing.
- They pretend to know more than the true teachers by their empty knowledge and conceit.
- Their minds are corrupted and this corruption is proven by what they produce.
It is not that godliness is a way to make money, it is that the true motivation for these teachers is the desire to make money from their teachings (which are false) about spiritual things (i.e. godliness).
Paul also mentions the idea of money as a way to lead into his next point.
2. Warning to Those Whose Desire is Money
6But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. 7For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. 8If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. 9But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
- I Timothy 6:6-10
He picks up the idea of godliness and gain (wealth) and says that, unlike the perverted teachings of the troublemakers, there is a relationship between the two: true godliness when accompanied by contentment is a great way to gain or prosper. The idea is that when someone is right with God (godly), he can be content with the basics (food and covering). Conversely, if you are not right with God, it does not matter what you have, you are not content.
The message, between the lines, is that it is godliness that creates contentment in the heart, not wealth. We have nothing when we are born and we bring nothing with us when we die, and whatever we accumulate in between does not have the power to give us the kind of peace and contentment provided by godliness!
Paul finishes with a warning against the love or desire for money. It is the root or the basis for many other evils in life. This desire drives us to say and do many foolish, dangerous and sinful things. The worst of these, of course, is that the pursuit of money draws us away from the pursuit of holiness, godliness and love, and replaces these with the pursuit of personal wealth and security, of power over others, and the accumulation of things and earthly pleasure.
The end result, of course, is that we exchange our souls for the things of this world.
17Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. 18Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.
- I Timothy 6:17-19
We skip to this part because it is the natural point that follows the warning against the overwhelming love of money.
Usually the poor think, dream and pursue wealth to their own destruction. At times, however, gaining or having wealth is not a sin in itself, it is simply a challenge to one's spirituality if abused.
Paul, therefore, has a series of exhortations for those who already have wealth so that their wealth not become a cause for sin.
- Make sure your faith is in God, not in the wealth you have.
- Do not let your wealth make you conceited (thinking, "I am better because I am rich, I do not need anyone").
- Realize that God is the One who provides wealth, not yourself, so be thankful.
- Remember that wealth is uncertain but God is always there.
- Use your wealth in God's service, not in your own, so that you become wealthy before God.
- Pursue true life which is spiritual rather than the life that money buys.
In the end, rich and poor alike will receive what they have yearned for: wealth and pleasure on earth or eternal life with God in heaven.
3. Warning to Ministers - 6:11, 20-21
The final word in the letter goes to Timothy and to those like him whose task is to minister to the church.
11But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. 12Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate, 14that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15which He will bring about at the proper time—
- I Timothy 6:11-15
His warnings and encouragements are based on the previous things that he has written:
A. Avoid the division and strife of the false teachers and the pursuit of wealth for its own sake. Run away from these things.
B. Focus your energies on spiritual goals like:
- Righteousness - right living
- Godliness - godly character and spirit
- Faith - being faithful to God and to the church
- Love - of God and of others
- Perseverance - abiding under the load and challenge of ministry
- Gentleness - meekness, the opposite of self-interest or self promotion
C. Fight your own battle of faith.
He is a minister but he is also an individual Christian who needs to remain faithful until the end in order to be with Christ in eternity. In the end, all of us must fight the good fight of faith; it is not any easier or different for ministers. Like everyone else, Timothy confessed Christ in becoming a Christian and he must now complete the race set for him when he began the Christian life.
D. Preach the Word faithfully.
Jesus made the "good confession," that He was the Son of God, even when it caused His death. Timothy, as a preacher, must maintain this basic doctrine of the faith despite all obstacles. The job of preachers is not only to proclaim the gospel (whose central teaching is the divinity of Christ), they must also preserve the integrity of the message without changing, adding or deleting any part of it until they pass it on to the next generation or until Jesus returns.
20O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called "knowledge"— 21which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith. Grace be with you.
- I Timothy 6:20-21
The balance of his exhortation to Timothy comes at the end of the letter.
E. Guard your gifts
Timothy has two gifts: one is the knowledge of the gospel itself received from Paul, and the other is the ministry of preaching received from God through the laying on of hands by the elders (I Timothy 4:14). These two gifts are both sides of the same coin that Timothy is to guard by not being drawn into the divisions and debates going on.
Also, he is not to trade the gospel for the false knowledge or philosophy that was being promoted at that time. He was a young man and could be seduced into joining the older and perhaps "educated" teachers who were promoting a false teaching with fancy words and personal claims to superior knowledge. Others had been seduced and led away but Timothy had to guard against this and remain faithful to his calling as well as to the message of the gospel.
Paul then ends the letter with the blessing "grace be with you." The Apostle includes all the blessings of God summarized in a single word: grace.
Doxology — 6:15b-16
15bHe who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen.
- I Timothy 6:15b-16
These verses do not match the message Paul is giving to Timothy as far as warnings and personal encouragements. They are neither. They are a doxology or "spontaneous praise."
Paul becomes caught up in what he is saying to Timothy in this letter and simply breaks out into praise before continuing on with the subject at hand. As he talks about the eventual coming of Jesus, he is carried away and says: God, who is the most blessed of all sovereigns; the King of all the kings; Lord of all the lords; who is eternal; is the source of Light; is unapproachable by sinful man...
He and only He is worthy of honor and worthy to rule over all things. It is this God who will reveal the Christ at the end of the world, a time that only He knows. So Paul praises Christ, His message and also praises and worships the Father.
The doxology correctly praises the Godhead:
- The Father who sent Jesus to the cross and will reveal Him in the end.
- The Son who dies for sin and whose resurrection precedes our own.
- The Holy Spirit whose word Timothy must guard and proclaim until Christ returns.
This ends Paul's comments and our study of the first epistle to Timothy. God bless you.